One gold coin placed in my hand, the Roman numeral 7 with the word years were engraved on the front and my grace is enough for you was engraved on the back. I wrapped my fingers around the token and I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving to the one who paid the price to set me free.
Last night I received my recovery coin, seven years of walking through the process of recovering what was lost, stolen or given away, through my habits, hurts and hang-ups.
I remember sitting on the old worn out couch in what we called the living room of my recovery home, participating in my very first recovering meeting. I had one day clean and the thought of seven days with out popping a pill, piercing my skin or puking my meal seemed like an eternity.
I remember the first time we had to go around the room, state our name our drug of choice and our days being clean and sober. I was overwhelmed with guilt and shame wondering how I ever got to this place in my life.
Today I turn around and I get the honor and pleasure of looking back and seeing the amazing journey I have been alowed to travel on. I know I am a product of all those who have gone before me and for all those who have supported me.
I understand today that it was never about popping a pill, puking a meal or piercing my flesh but rather about breaking free from my past so that I could live in the present while trusting in a God who had a hope for my future.
It was not until recently that I realized how quiet my mind had become and how still my soul could be. I was out for a walk and decided to leave my music behind and there was such a powerful peace in the silence of my mind and the stillness of my spirit, it was in that moment that I was able to grasp the benefit of coming through complete brokenness and receiving profound and complete healing.
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
My heart hurts because it misses what use to be and what could have been. I cannot believe we are approaching the Christmas season and I just do not feel like celebrating. I am sad about being sad if that makes sense. I cannot seem to get excited about the holidays.
I know that this is normal for loss, the first of another event passing by without her here, birthdays, a wedding, thanksgiving and now Christmas. I also know that God is bigger then my grief and he created my tears as much as he created my laughter.
I spent the better part of my life holding back every tear that needed to fall whether they were tears of joy or tears of laughter. I grew up with a false belief system that my tears were a sign weakness but the older I get the more I come to believe and understand that my strength actually comes out of those moments of grief when I choose to embrace the tears of sadness and the loss.
I have learned as well through the grieving process that there is nothing that anyone can say or do to make me feel better and the honest to God truth is that when I am grieving I am not looking to feel better I am just making sure I don’t loose my voice in the pain so that when it passes I am still fully alive.
I share and I share and I share until I cannot share anymore. It takes a very special friend a very special person to walk through grief and to share in the shedding of the tears that are brought on by the loss of a loved one due to death, a move, a break up, loss is loss and the body, mind and spirit respond the same when something you once had is now gone.
The call came in and on the other end of the phone was that very special person who so many years ago reminded me that when grief came knocking and it would that she would be just a phone call away, now whenever I try to deny or dismiss the knock at the door I remember her words and I hear her voice.
As I sat in the parking lot shedding my tears I knew that the silence on the other side of the phone meant acceptance, I knew the words of encouragement to keep it real meant even though I was struggling in my weakness I was actually being strong and brave.
I am so thankful today for the circle of friends who share a common faith, who believe that God shows up best in our weaknesses and are willing to keep it real. Today I say thank you to Jenny who has been the voice in the middle of the void when I am hurt, lost, and down and out because, sometimes life just hurts!
“Should I still be lifting weights?” This question was asked by me but not to me this time but rather to my therapist just before my session ended.
I asked this because of the severe muscle cramps and joint pain I had which are caused by the flairs ups do to my fibromyalgia, which usually gets worse during the winter months. Of course, I knew the answer but had to hear it from a professional.
I mean come on, if it hurts to lift groceries in and out my car, if it hurts to lift a blanket off my body, why would I think lifting any kind of weights would be any better?
His professional opinion was yes and he started to remind me of the definition for insanity, I put my hand up in front of his face as if to say, “stop, I know”, nothing like being confronted with the obvious. I almost rolled my eyes at the dear man, who is old enough to be my father and kind enough to be my grandfather but out of respect, I just nodded and agreed.
He was right; I had been doing the same thing repeatedly in hopes of strengthening my muscles. I had come to enjoy the endorphins that kicked in when I lifted and the results I had experienced from the workout but muscle strength I had not received, just the opposite had happened, my muscles had become week.
I thanked him for the session as well as the confirmation of what I had already known, scheduled my next appointment and headed for my car. Honestly, I was in a little fog as I got in my car to head home.
The familiar feeling of not wanting to give up a habit that was now bad for me brought me right back to my early years in recovery. “How could this be the same, this is exercise?”
The reality of it is this; there are those habits that are good for me and then those that are bad me. I know smoking is a bad habit, never a good choice. But then there are those habits that start out good and can turn into something bad, drug use for pain, food intake for pleasure, relationships, I could place anything in there and call it a habit and if I do it long enough it could become an addiction.
How did I know my habit of lifting weights had become an addiction? Simple, even though I had known it was causing me pain, harm and discomfort, I still could not imagine not doing it and even though I knew I should have stopped, I had to hear it from a professional and I still struggled with the answer.
After my realization in the car, I knew I had to quickly call my husband, not for sympathy mind you but rather for accountability, because I am queen of doing what I know I should not be doing especially if it looks and feels good. But ultimately what would happen is that my muscles would flair up and I would become completely useless to myself and others, it’s one thing if it just happens and another when I intentionally do something to harm myself.
It is crazy to think that in my flesh I would continue to do something just so I could reap the benefits of looking fit and feeling fine in the moment while paying the ultimate price of pain later on.
Therefore, how do I know when my habit has turned into an addiction? Well, here is the Webster’s definition of addiction. Addiction is the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
I think I am safe to say that my habit had become an addiction; psychologically I could not imagine myself without it and severe trauma it had caused.
“Do you know what I love most about Chris?" A question my fifteen-year-old daughter presented me with, one early morning as she was recovering from a bought of dehydration and a trip to the emergency room.
Of course, I thought! Chris, being one of my nearest and dearest friends, I immediately went to a list of a gazillion different things that she could possibly say in regards to why anyone loves Chris but I paused in the moment as she started to share her heart.
She told me what she loved most about Chris was that when she called her to see if she had any popsicles, Chris said no but if she wanted some she would go to the store for her.
My daughter continued to share what she loved most about Chris and her eyes lit up as she shared about the phone call that made her come to this conclusion. While my daughter was sitting in our living room bundled up in a blanket, resting and recovering, she had a sudden urge for a popsicle.
None was to be found in our freezer so she decided to give Chris a call, in hopes that she might just find one hidden behind some frozen veggies or ice cube trays, left over from the summer.
Their freezer mimicked ours, summer had used up the cool and refreshing treat. However, with out hesitation or thought and a willingingness that comes from someone who lives next to your heart, she was ready to hop in the car and head to the store.
This simple but profound action is what my daughter loves most about my friend. Her willingness and readiness to serve and give without hesitation. My daughter knew that Chris and her family had been watching their wallet like so many of us. Yet, Chris did not think twice about her trip to the market, she was ready to go in search of a treat for my daughter.
Now, I know that in many people’s eyes, popsicles are not a cause to make or break the bank but the message that was sent to my daughter’s heart was that she was worth it, valued and loved, without any hesitation or thought, Chris was willing and ready to give. That is a preighbor for you.
A preighbor is someone who responds in the spirit, to the spirit. I knew Chris and her family had been praying for Sami and so when the call was made Chris responded naturally, as many preighbors do.
In addition, even though it sounded like my daughter had a physical need or a want in her request for the Popsicle, I really think in her illness she just needed to hear another voice, someone who could be compassionate and caring as she started to heal from her days in bed.
Chris and her family live 2 ½ houses down from us. We have been neighbors for over a decade but three years ago, we became preighbors. Our hearts connected through our genuine love for the Lord and our passion to keep it real. We have spent time praying for each other, for our families and for the very community we have been called to live in. We are preighbors!
See, anyone can be a neighbor but it takes a very special person to be a preighbor.
Thank you Chris for setting the example for choosing not to just live next to my house but also my heart!
“He alone loves the Creator perfectly who manifests a pure love for his neighbor”.
Life filtered through the lens of our childhood past and present memories, our experiences over the last few days made for delicious story, full of aroma and flavor. The sent of our childhood shenanigans made their way through the caverns, to the canyon and all the way to the wings of a Cessna 6254D.
When you experience life together with someone you have history with, someone you have known your whole life words become delicious, full of flavor and feelings. When you experience life together with someone, you have history with, whether it is through victories or struggles every moment stirs up old memories, which in turn collide, with the new ones and the child with in you comes face to face with the adult you, gently reminding you not to take life so seriously.
Question of the day "how long does it take for the balls to form?" rolled off the lips of my forty something year old brother. I apologize in advance, I know this does not sound holy, righteous or even pleasing to some of you, but it was so dang funny, my response was natural and spontaneous. I was even a little shocked but pleased at the fact that I could still giggle at the girl inside of me.
My brother stood behind me finishing his question to the guide who was giving us a tour of the Grand Canyon caverns, I knew better to even look behind me, making eye contact with him would have ruined the very serious moment as the guide jumped in with enthusiasm to explain how many billions of years it took for the crystal balls to form inside the cavers we were in.
I was dying of laughter inside, turning my head ever so slightly so that I could peer out of the corner of my eye making a ever so brief contact with my brother, there we were standing among strangers but not as forty something year old mature adults but rather all of a sudden I become 10 again and he was 12 ready to loose it because not only did he say balls in public but he was able to make an adult say the word as well, like that was his intent!
It took everything in me not to break out in laughter, here we were taking part in a history/geology lesson, inspired by the hand print of God all over the cavern walls, yet another part of me was lost in the moment of my past, sharing an unspoken connection with my big brother all because of a simple unplanned question followed by a very authentic response.
In my grown brother’s defense, I have to say, he did not set out to cause my mind to take a quick trip to the gutter, he had an honest question, little did he know how quickly the child inside of us both needed to be free for the rest of the trip.
The good news is she was just dehydrated. She had been fighting a headache for over 24 hours, chills and a slight fever. They gave her fluids and something for the pain and released her within a few hours.
That was the prayer as we left the house in the middle of the night, doctor’s orders over the phone, E.R. bound. Because of her complaint of pain in the neck and eyes and her lack of energy, they wanted to rule out meningitis and ordered me to head straight to the hospital, no waiting until the morning.
That word “meningitis” is not something a parent wants to hear in the same sentence as their child’s name. With her blanket in one hand and mine in the other, we went in to the E.R. and with the favor, we seem to have in places like these. A room was waiting and a nurse was in place, no waiting for our turn or wondering who was next.
As I sat next to her bedside watching her sleep and praying for her pain, I couldn't help but think about the many hours I spend next to the bedside of the sick.
As part of the calling as a minister the other side of the bed is a very familiar place for me.
But, nothing in this life prepares a mother to sit next to the guardrail of the bed that her own child is sleeping in. I wanted to take her place, remove her from the bed, take out the IV and make it all better.
With those thoughts in check and the reality of how helpful the fluids were and how safe she was, I took a deep breath, found peace and just sat next to her bedside, held her hand and started thanking God for the resourses we had to make sure she was being cared for in her sicknesses.
We were giving our marching orders after the fluids were administered and all the blood work was finished. No meningitis or bacteria to be found. A viral infection to be fought with rest, sleep and lots of fluids.
I am one happy tired mama! Thank you all for your love, support and prayers. She is wrapped up in her pink blanket, water bottle next to her own bed and sleeping at this very moment.
Thank you God for preparing me for the other side of the bed!
As I watched them dance across the wooden dance floor I remembered that day in spring so many years ago when we were at the ball field waiting for the game to start and Tony was playing with Amanda, he was on his back with her in his arms and they were chasing lady bugs and I knew in that moment that I loved him because of the way he loved her. As they danced their dance, I could smell the green grass of the field as if it had joined us for the ceremony. I could feel the cool spring breeze enter into the moment, a gentle nudge from yesterday to remind me of how much my past was part of my future.
Even though I did not birth this child of mine, she is my child and the stretch marks she has left are not on my belly but across my heart. You could almost say we grew up together and I learned through her how to love unconditionally to forgive with out reservation and to look for the best in everyone. So, as she danced hand in hand with her daddy and I watched from the sideline I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving for the two of the most important people in my life. I learned to love because he loved her well. Thank you Tony and Amanda for being the best husband and daughter a woman could ask for. I love you both to the sky and back.
It is hard to believe that today marks five months since my mother passed away. It was just five short months ago when I said my goodbye. I recently wrote to a friend and shared with her that I think my crier is stuck. I know there is tears deep inside my soul that still need to be shed but I guess it is just not their time.
What if every single teardrop had its own purpose, its own ways of helping me walk through grief? Maybe shedding them too soon or not soon enough could force the very natural process of grieving for the what ifs and the use to Bs’.
Finding Auburn for me over the last several years has been all about pulling away from my everyday routine and just pressing into the ear of God. I write in my journal, pray, read and sometimes I might even surprise someone with a phone call.
Today, because I chose to stay rather close to home, I had more time then usual and I thought I would surprise my husband with a gift for his month of birthday. He was born on the third of the month, a great reason to buy him a gift and tell him how glad I was that he was born.
I do not know if I would have paid much attention to the fact that today was his month of birthday if I had not pulled away, another good reason to step away from the everyday routine as well. I was so excited when I realized that one of the things he has always wanted, at least over the last several months was a titanium crystal wine glass, as soon as the store was open, I was in there made my purchase and headed home to surprise him with his month of birthday gift. Needless to say, he was surprised with the gesture, front porch here he comes, new glass in hand and wine from his rack, happy month a birthday to you.
It has been a great Friday, relaxing and enjoying my weekly Sabbath, being intentional about breaking up my routine and finding ways to bless those I love the most. Now off to a youth rally with my teen. Hope you all have a great weekend, remember, do not forget to rest.
His bed if you would call it that, was a plastic box hooked up to machines and monitors’ that took on a life of their own. I could hear the sounds of his roommates crying from their little plastic boxes as well, all just waiting to be held, fed or changed. The smell of sterilized plastic lingered in every corner of the room. The look in the eyes of the other parents coming to visit their new born babies told me I was not alone, that gaze of disbelief that anything that tiny could survive was written across so many of our faces.
His entry into this world was sudden and early and I was un prepared. They took him away from me as quickly as I pushed him out, he wasn’t placed in my hands but rather in their care. I got to see him once before they transferred him to another hospital. I was a new mother who had just spent months preparing for his arrival, hours for his birth unable to have anything to show for it, except an empty belly.
I knew that the best care for him we be at the Neonatal unit across town but that didn’t make it feel any less like I was being robbed of my child, I had not even been aloud to hold him when they wheeled him away. I begged and pleaded with my husband to follow the ambulance that was transferring our little boy from one hospital to another, fear of someone trying to steal him overtook my mind, I wasn’t thinking logically, I allowed my heart and my emotions to dictate my demands in the moment as I barked out orders not to loose sight of the vehicle that was caring my heart.
I had to spend one extra day in the hospital for recovery purposes, I dreamed about what it would be like to hold my little miracle baby in my arms. I had a deep sadness of missing this tiny human being that I had just met 24 hours earlier. How could I love so deeply and miss so badly someone I had only seen a few times?
The nurse handed me my release papers, and I checked out of one hospital and stepped into another. My first interaction with my son since our separation was through latex gloves and his plastic box. I placed my hands inside the latex gloves that were attached to two round holes on the outside of his incubator my heart longed to just reach inside with my bare hands and scoop him up and hold him close to my heart. Intellectually I understood the need for all the tubes, wiring and rules, I understood that my little boys life was in danger and every moment mattered when it came to his well being but my heart cried out to rescue him as my flesh perceived him being in danger.
The day finally came when I experienced my Shalom moment, when the tension and the presence of perfect pleasure collided with a deep inner and eternal harmony with the things all around me as I was allowed to finally pick up my little boy for the very first time. His body weighing just a bit over three pounds, less then a bag of sugar. His skin was thin and translucent and looked like it could just peel of his body if I wasn’t careful. His nervous system had not yet been completely developed so overstimulation could cause him severe pain. I had spent many hours studying about the care of a premature baby and I understood the need to be still with him in my arms so that I would not cause him harm. The experts had proven a procedure called kangaroo care, that when done just right, the child would thrive, their lungs would grow, their breathing would increase and they would be able to hold their own temperature, preparing them to be free from their little plastic box and ready to go home to their families.
The method also was known as skin on skin. I was prepared to practice this procedure for the very first time with my little boy. As I stood in front of his little plastic box all of a sudden in was just him and me. The sound of the machines faded into the background, the chattering of the nurses seemed to disappear and the anticipation of finally getting to hold, cuddle and connect with my child took over, my heart was beating fast, swelling with love for this child I had not yet held and longing to let him know how much he was loved. I carefully reached into his incubator, making sure not to move to quickly.
I slowly unwrapped him and undressed him down to his diaper, tears rolled down my eyes as I prepared to place him against my chest, skin on skin for the very first time. My nose nestled over his head, breathing in his sent. All of the worries all the fears seemed to melt away as I held my baby boy next to me, it was then at that very moment that I knew that all was well with my soul, Shalom!
1. Listen well.
2. Ask good.
3. Pause often.
4. Start all over.
My daughter arrived home from school, plopped herself down on her usual spot and took on that usual look of “I need to talk to you.” Without saying any words the look in my eyes told her I was ready to listen, to give her my full attention. She opened her mouth and began to share about her day, her time on campus, in the class room and among her peers. She finished sharing as quickly as she began and in her silence I knew she was waiting for me to ask good. This is what I call being intentional with all I say, especially when it come to my questions.
I spoke up and my ask good was this, “do you need me to just listen or would you like my input?” and then I just paused and started to listen well all over again. In my pause she looked at me with a twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her face, her way of saying thank you for actively listening to me through her expression.
She continued to share and wanted my thoughts, we were engaged in an open dialogue that added to our relationship. I have learned that my pauses do not mean I agree with what she is saying but they do mean that I value her voice and the trust she has to share with me whatever it might be. The conversation ended well with her thinking about some choices she will have to make in the near future. I walked away from the conversation impressed at the way she has learned to communicate well.
The break down in relationships, any kind but especially that of teens and parents comes when there is lack of communication or miscommunication. If our children are in the learning years, then it is our job to teach them well, they were not born to communicate it comes with training, teaching and many hours of listening on the side of the parent.
If there is anything I am learning as I navigate through these years is that my parenting has become 95% listening and 5% speaking. I have learned that the most important part of the conversation has been the pause I intentionally take, it is there where I earn the trust of my children to speak into the situation.
If you are preparing to parent a teen or are in the middle of these wonderful years, please be encouraged to Listen well, Ask good, Pause often and Start over again. This will allow you to become actively involved in a positive way in your teens life while connecting with them through open conversation. It is amazing what our children are willing to tell us when we are willing to listen.
That is when I decided I would go for a walk and get out of my own head, me, myself and I don’t usually do well there when I feel like I have been mistreated. Key word, feel, I hadn’t been but everything in me wanted to own that feeling as if I had been treated unfairly.
I had this wonderful day planned out with a good friend that required me to be away from my home most of the day, she lives an hour away and we only get to see each other a couple times a year. I had been looking forward to this visit all week, the anticipation kept me pushing through the everyday tasks I had to accomplish and treated this visit like the prize at the end of my to do list.
Needless to say, I was more then disappointed when my 15 year old daughter woke up this morning with a migraine and in need of being taken care of. I have come to appreciate the fact that for my teenage daughter, feeling taken care of means just being present with her. I knew what had to be done but I felt like crying inside, so many feelings and emotions were running through my head.
First one was one of being a victim, "look what has happened to me" another was anger then frustration and then I was worried about what my friend would think as well as the dreaded phone call to the school and her coach. Can you see why I had to get out of my head? All at the same time, the spirit is gently reminding me that this is my choice, this is what living in the "yes" to His call looks like. It was at that moment that I checked on my daughter, grabbed a water bottle and put on my walking shoes. As I left the house the first thing I told myself was that this season of resting and being home to simply support and serve my family is a choice, one I intentionally and joyfully said yes to.
Of course, I didn't take into consideration the planned out pockets of time I had made for myself when I thought my kids would be in school and husband would be at work. As I started to walk through my feelings, I chose to pray aloud for all that I was grateful for during this season in my life. Thank God for technology, people passing by me probably thought I had a blue tooth hidden somewhere as I walked and talked. The first thing I thanked God for was my home, shelter for my sick child, fresh clean water to give her as she is healing and for the fact that I, not someone else is there for her in her time of need.
I started to pray for a good friend of my who is in the same season in life and just the thought of her brought me peace knowing that I am not walking this rode alone. I prayed for courage over her yes, for patients and perseverance as she pressed into being not just physically present but emotionally present to these young people God has entrusted her with and then prayed the same for me as well.
As I arrived back home, I thanked God for using my friend in a mighty way to help me stay in my “yes” and not act like a victim when in fact I am blessed beyond words to be able to be here for my family. I love how God has surrounded me with other women who have intentionally chosen to live in their “yes” as well, running the race is so much better when done together.
The benefit of obedience is the wonderful world of communication I see happening between my teens as they come home every afternoon prepared to answer the question “what was the best thing that happened to you today?” Sometimes there is just silence, which I have learned to be OK with but other times my daughter Sami who is almost 15 can go on for 45 min. straight without taking a breath. Well maybe a few inhales of oxygen but she can talk, she can share and I love hearing how her day unfolded and how she is choosing to live her life on and off campus.
With this shared, I must get downstairs and into my kitchen, the pots and pans are calling my name. My prayer is that I will continue to see this season as a blessing, what a gift it is to be able to be home with my family and available to them.
"Life is not a race - but indeed a journey. Be honest. Work hard. Be choosy. Say 'thank you', 'I love you' and 'great job' to someone each day. Go to church, take time for prayer. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh. Let your handshake mean more than pen and paper. Love your life and what you've been given, it is not accidental - search for your purpose and do it as best you can. Dreaming does matter. It allows you to become that which you aspire to be. Laugh often. Appreciate the little things in life and enjoy them. Some of the best things really are free. Do not worry, less wrinkles are more becoming. Forgive, it frees the soul. Take time for yourself - plan for longevity. Recognize the special people you've been blessed to know. Live for today, enjoy the moment."
I learned to live in the moment and trust God with my future. I had a hunger and a desire to be like the turtle, living my life at a slow and study pace. My motto for years now has been just that, "be the turtle", until recently when I was visiting my favorite little town in the world, Auburn, with a good friend of mine. I usually am just a window shopper on my Friday jaunts up the hill but not this day, there was a piece of artwork that had been made just for me. Sitting on the shelf in one of the corner shops was the most amazing little porcelain statue of a turtle working its way out of its shell. It was as if I could hear the thing come to life, saying, "Becoming the turtle", what a defining moment of my race. All these years I thought it was just "be the turtle" how wrong was I; it was about becoming the turtle. I had to chuckle as I picked the little piece up and made my way to the front counter to purchase myself a gift.
It was that moment and that day that solidified the direction of my race, from being to becoming, from the race to the journey. What had brought me up to Auburn that day had been the process of years in the making of becoming the turtle, a time of pulling away and a time of just resting as the week comes to an end. It has been in the journey of finding my Auburn that I have learned to live in the moment, taking in every wonderful breath that God has given me and in so have found a heart to help others do the same.
I have a passion for helping teach, train and provide tools for those who have chosen to live life intentionally, for those who want to press into the pause and celebrate the very moment they decided to embrace, which I like to call, “living in the now”. Those of us who have been called to follow Christ, know that we have also been told to choose life, don’t worry about tomorrow and rejoice in the Lord always. These three actions take practice, they take perseverance and they take endurance, which is why I think for so many years I could relate to the physical part of running my race to the spiritual side of my life.
Wow, can you imagine what your life would like if you decided that today would be the day, not someday, but today would be the day that you chose to live the life that God has called you to live. Imagine you opening your calendar and placing the words “choose life” on Thursday June 26, 2010. This would be a day to celebrate!
How do you live the life you have now just chosen? You make an active decision to be involved in the ministry of the moment, which is where living life really happens. It is focusing on what is going on in your own life as well as the life of others around you and allowing God to take care of the rest. It is about actively sitting still and becoming aware of who you are and what you are in the very moment you have been given.
Friends, as you can see, my blog is undergoing a few changes. Please be patient with me as I focus on His Face and try to become as purposeful and intentional about my posts.
Thank you all for your love and support over the last several years, cheering me on as I ran my race.
I will never forget this morning, as I experienced the promise of peace found by pressing into my pain and living in the moment. I have chosen to trust God with my future and allowed myself to hold tight to His truth rather then my feelings. Though I have felt lost, and hopeless the truth is I have never been more certain of where I am and where I am going and have never experienced so much hope in the middle of so much loss.
This particular morning with a renewed spirit, I chose to go visit the church and prayer garden I use to take my mother to every Thursday morning. It was our special time together, we would get coffee, talk about our past week, the things we wanted to work on and the things we were appreciative of and then head off to morning service. It became one of those days of the weeks that I looked forward to in anticipation, my faith grew as well as my relationship with my mother because of those Thursday morning dates.
Here I was, back at the church, ready to sit in the very pew I use to sit in with my mother and have a little one on one with God, as I was experiencing my loss, wrapped around my peace and embracing my grief. My heart was heavy with the memories of yesterday but so focused on today and what He was going to bring out of my mourning. My heart sank quickly as I reached for the doors of the church and gave a quick pull and realized that the doors were locked.
I was looking so forward to those quiet moments and felt such a let down when I could not get in, disappointment quickly tried to steal the joy that had come to me earlier that morning. I decided to sit in my car and admire the prayer garden that was just to the left of the church. This was the very garden my mother and I would stop at every Thursday before and after service. I was tempted to enter but did not want to disturb what appeared to be a woman in her late sixties taking time to tend to the bushes and plants. I sat back and just took in all the beauty of the garden and the peace in the moment.
It was hard to stay to long in the moment as my eyes kept being led to the giant wooden cross that was sitting right in the center of the garden. A white cloth was draped around the upper beam as if to say, “He has risen”! To the right of the cross was a white stone altar, I could almost hear His voice “just lay it down”. That is when I felt the leading to just get up and go, meet the gardener and ask her if she was the one I needed to thank for the beautiful job of tending to His handy work. I slowly walked up to the garden so as not to frighten her. Taking in all the smells, the fresh cut grass and the sweet sent of the roses tickled my nose.
She appeared to be somewhere else in thought as I said "are you the one who keeps this place so beautiful"? She looked up stunned as if she was not sure I was talking to her even though she was the only one in the garden with me. Our eyes locked and in a heavy accent, she told me, “I am just an old woman with no talents who wants to give back to Jesus.” She stuck her hand out to show me the dirt from her work and wanted to shake my hand but did not want to get me dirty. In a quiet and gentle voice, she gave me her name, Emma, the gardener, the one who kept His roses cut and his flowers watered.
She explained to me how she came to the garden every day to tend to it’s needs after service was over when every one would go home. She had a spirit of humility that was reflected in the way she held herself, not someone looking for kudos but someone wanting to give back because she had been given so much. She kept saying she just wanted to make Jesus smile. My heart was overflowing with compassion and love for this total stranger who shared the very same heart beat as myself.
I shared with her about my time at the church and in the garden and how my mom and I would faithfully attend service every Thursday morning, coming to the garden before and after the service. We would take in the beauty of the flowers, the sent of the roses and the message of the cross and the altar. I explained to her about my mother’s illness and how she had just recently passed away. I could tell she was patiently waiting to share with me about something and with a pause in the conversation and her eyes wide open she quickly asked me “why Thursdays”, she was beyond curious, I could tell as she leaned in waiting for my response.
It was a simple answer, it was the day we picked to be our day, where we would go to coffee, shopping and church. Because of her illness, many things were limited but we both cherished our Thursday morning quiet time together, in the end, it was difficult to get her out and I know she missed our weekly trips to the little garden tucked beside the church. My new friend Emma shared with me how Thursday service was dedicated to the hopeless, she shared with me about the patron Saint Jude and his connection to Thursday as well. I thought, “of course, that would explain the open prayer time the priest would give us during service.”
I am not sure how we got on the topic of Israel but I had an opportunity to share with her that I had just recently visited the Holy Land and how much I was touched by the gardeners tending to the needs of the gardens I had visited. I told her how much she had done the same for me this day as well, her gift of gardening had brought peace to my moment of grief and a gentle reminder that I was just in a season.
Once again, she spoke up about her love for Jesus and wanting to give back, she seemed almost ashamed to admit that she had nothing to offer, a woman without talent is how she referred to herself. I looked her straight in the eyes and with confidence, I told her that it takes incredible talent to greet a stranger and make her feel so at home, I thanked her for taking the time to talk to me and for the way she made the garden shine. She asked me my name and said she would never forget it and thanked me for the compliment as if it was the first one she had ever received. Silence overtook the conversation and I knew that that was my queue to say goodbye. I thanked her once again and promised I would come visit her in the garden. I thanked her for sharing the love of Jesus with me and reminded her that she was an answer to my prayer.
Here I was, on the first day of feeling hopeful after one of the greatest losses in my life. Here we were, an insignificant gardener and a grieving daughter, who through a brief meeting and a moment in time experienced purpose and peace as we both chose to share our hearts, her weakness and my loss.
I left the garden that day, ready to dance before my God because once again I found His promises unfolding in the very moment I chose to say yes.
11You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary." -Dorothy Canfield Fisher
It was my honor and privilege to have spent the last twelve months of my mom’s life with her when she came to live with my family and me last May. Because she chose to live in the moment and trust God with her future, none of us really knew how sick she really was until the very end. Mom you taught us to live well. Mom, I watched you fight for your life over the last twelve months and instead of giving up or giving in to your circumstances you embraced them and made the most of them.
You made it clear from the moment you arrived until the day you died that you trusted God more then you trusted the diagnosis. I will never forgot the last doctors appointment when the conversation turned from your care to the doctors faith, your doctor wanted to know more about what you believed in and by the time we left you had her requesting for you to bring her a bible to your next visit, she wanted to know about this God you trusted and the Jesus you loved. It was amazing to watch the look on the doctor’s face as you shared with her all you did and all you had planned on doing. You pressed in and pressed on when many with your disease had chosen to just quit and give up.
Living in the moment and letting go so we could grow was a running theme in your life and only now looking back can we truly appreciate all that it cost you to let us go, the balancing act it took for you to not hold on to tightly or to let go too quickly of all six of your children. Mom, how many times did you hide your tears, as you slowly let us go, knowing that for us to grow you would have to let us go? You did not just do this once or twice but six times. Even in your final hours, it was easy to tell that you were still holding back so we could let go.
One of your greatest strengths was the way you allowed all of us kids to go through our struggles, you never tried to fix, rescue or save us from ourselves or our circumstances. I use to think that your silence meant you just didn’t care, but I could not have been more wrong. You sat patiently by waiting, watching and listening as we all continued to grow, some of us taking longer then others. We are the kind of adults we are today because you let us go so well. Mom, you were more concerned with listening then speaking and because of that, many people outside of our family would seek you out. Mom, you had the ability to create community wherever you went, you gave others a sense of belonging and I think that is why so many people adopted you as their mother, sister, and friend.
Mom, you taught us how to fold into the moment and press into the pause. Even before your disease, you were not one to rush. You took in every moment and enjoyed it to the fullest, what a gift you have given us, what a life lesson we will never forget. I will miss the early morning sunrises we use to share as we headed out to the farmers market, the evening chats in the sanctuary as we watched the sun go down and the afternoon chats on the front porch drinking our smoothies with the kids and just taking in the day.
Mom, one of my last and favorite memories of you at the house was when you came into the kitchen early one morning, shuffling along the floor, a sound I came to enjoy hearing in the house, we knew where you were by the sound of the shuffle and the lay out of your oxygen cord. This particular morning as you came into the kitchen you stopped me in my tracks, with out words you had me step into the moment and grabbed my face, bent my head down and planted a kiss on my forehead and said, “I love you” and then shuffled back to your room. I followed you like a little girl wanting to know what that was for and when I asked you looked me in the eyes and with that great big smile of yours and said “just because”. I left your room with the feeling that all was well with my soul at that very moment, not knowing that that was going to be one of our last moments in the home together.
Mom, even in the end you still lived so fully in the moment, I wish I had a video of the scene I saw as I walked into the E.R. the last Thursday night of your life, Dennis and Patrick celebrating mother’s day with you, you were completely engaged in the moment, a smile a mile long as the boys lifted your oxygen mask so you could enjoy some simple wine tasting, the balloon and card on your table spoke loudly that you were a women who celebrated life.
Mom, every nurse and every doctor in that I.C.U. had been touched by your presence. As the calls came in from Eileen and Michelle, and David arrived with his family, your eyes would tell us that you were entirely aware and that you were leading all six of us through the process of letting you go once again by helping us stay in the moment. Mom, you will be missed by your family and friends, your smile your laugh and the way you made the moments count. We will forever remember how you lived in story and made memories out of your moments and a legacy out of letting go.
So it wasn't the sea of Galilee but it was the American River. What is it about water that brings our soul to a place of peace and inner rest? What is it about water that makes us feel alive and well, strong and courageous and able to open up and share things we typically would no share in the hustle and bustle of our busy day on land away from the flow?
Yesterday I was suppose to be in Israel and though I did not make it to the Promise land I did experience the Promise Land in and around me as I stood at the waters edge contemplating life and the call with a friend and fellow sojourner. It was an experience that came out of a volcanic eruption that caused a sudden disruption in our travel plans.
I am finding though, that the truest of all ministry happens right in the middle of all the disruptions. I am finding that this kind of ministry can only be seen through a special kind of lens and the stillness of ones soul. As a result, instead of standing at the Sea of Galilee contemplating the fact that I was going to get to walk where Jesus walked, I was now Resting on the River in America contemplating why Jesus walked where he walked.
As much as I wanted the where to be there, it is the why that changes lives. Was not the original Promise land all about changed lives? Was not the original Promise land all about being set free? Free to be you, free to be me? Because of the cross the Promise land is now with in reach, it is not an actual place we have to travel to, of course unless you are looking for a history lesson.
Jesus put it wonderfully in the book of John when he said to a broke lonely woman that the time had come that where you go to worship will not matter but that you will worship in spirit and in truth. As I stood by the river bank yesterday I felt like I understood that statement even more, drinking in the moment, getting more familiar with the friendship and feeling free to be me.
Therefore, whether I am standing at the Sea of Galilee or roaming the American river I will always remember that the Promise land lives with in me. I am looking forward to one-day getting to step in the places my Jesus stepped but for this moment I will be glad to just live in the why of where he stepped.
The truth is that God is all about reconciling people first to himself and then to each other, that is what the why in Jesus’ footsteps were all about, standing in the why, living in the why and building relationships in the why, makes the journey to the Promise land one of the greatest adventures in my life.
Living in the moment, trusting God with our future! If someone would have told me last week that I would be posting pictures of our family and friends gathering around my mother smiling along with her, I would not have believed it myself. However, since I am the one posting and since I am also one in the pictures as well, I am here to say once again that God shows up best right in the middle of my struggle and He shows up best right in the middle of my weakness.
It was less then two weeks ago when I had to call 911 because I thought we were going to loose my mom, she ended up in the hospital for a total of 7 days and upon release we had to have her placed in a rehabilitation facility. This is where the pictures are taken, just today as we gathered around for games and laughter with the family and our nearest and dearest friends, Steve and Donna.
I have been leaning on my faith and trusting in the fact that my past has God’s hand prints written all over it with it stating loud and clear, He works all things out, all! Therefore, as I have walked through some of the hardest conversations I have ever had in my life, I had to trust on what I knew rather then what I was feeling.
Today I celebrate the fact that our Hope is not found in things of this world but rather things not of this world. The smiles in the pictures are genuine and true and we are continuing to pray for mom’s speedy recover and so grateful to have her recovering so well.
Close your eyes and make a wish, we all know the routine. It is hard for me to believe that I celebrated my 41st birthday today. I remember when I was younger being told that time would go by faster as I got older but this is crazy. It seems like only yesterday when I was sitting down in this exact spot, propped up in my big blue chair, computer in my lap ending my day and making fun of what other’s referred to as the big one, and wondering what 40 was really suppose to feel like.
Here I am a year later and a year older. I hope I can say a year wiser as well. I am coming to the end of a season in my life and preparing to enter into a new one. So, how did I celebrate this special day? How did I bring in my new year? How did I make the most of the one day I can call my own?
I wish I could say I spent it celebrating but the truth was I spent most of it preparing. It is only now, as I sit by myself at the end of this day that I can truly celebrate the woman I have become and reflect on the woman I use to be. I rejoice in the work my God has done and I have a little celebration right her with just me, myself and I.
There once was a time in my life where I would have wanted to actually throw myself a pity party and invite everyone who I could think of to attend. There was a time where my expectations were high for the experiences I had promoted only to come to the end of them in complete disappointment. Birthdays always seemed to be such a let down when I was younger.
However, I have learned over the years that celebrating my birthday cannot be all about me that kind of thinking always left me empty and disappointed. It cannot be all about who I am, but rather who I am with and why I am with them. Today was just that, who I was with actually said a lot about who I had become and that in turn became the most important part about my day.
This birthday was like no other birthday I had ever experienced. I had to do what was right even though my heart was breaking. I had to make a decision that would change the life of a loved one and that of my household. With my best foot forward and my faith in front of me, I moved forward in my decision.
Today I came to the very end of myself and once again found the beginning of my creator, the one who promises to show up best in my weakness. Something to celebrate in itself, He is right in the middle of my “no”. The best gift I received today was the gift that comes with being down the road of brokenness before and knowing that I will not be left alone, forsaken or forgotten even when I feel as if I already had.
As I prepare to shut down my communication companion and settle into the rest of my night, I briefly pause to celebrate what this last year has brought and what the next year will bring. I will forever remember how God chose this time and this place to rebuild and recover what had been lost for so long. I will celebrate the fact that I am able to do what is right even when it feels wrong, that I am able to make “no” a complete sentence and that I can and will trust God with my future while living in the very moment He has given me.
Happy Birthday To Me!
Thank you all for your prayers through this process, the power of the Pez and the decision to be fully naked while still wearing clothes has produced this beautiful book. I had the honor and privilege of being part of the process of the book as well as allowing my story to be told. Loving this race! Tears of healing continue to flow from deep inside as I see my story in black and white. Thank you sister Pez!!!! Yes, trains, planes and automobiles!!!!!! I will never forget our first visit under the fig tree, who would have known.
As I reflect back on the last six years a few things come to mind. First, I am so grateful for the struggle, I am grateful for those who did not try to rescue me, fix me or prevent me from feeling the fear that came with a changed life. Second, if I could have seen into the future back then, I would have probably passed on this whole recovery thing.
Back in my early days of being set free I was searching for pure comfort anything that could feel a tad familiar, something that would make me feel safe. I then came to a point where I understood that true growth, true repentance and the Promise Land only came with change, ouch!
With both feet forward and an eye on those ahead of me, I said yes. With fear and trepidation I followed my faith more then my feelings. With my trust in the great I Am I said yes to the call of allowing myself to be poured out as an offering.
Yesterday with book in hand, I sat on my front porch crying over my story as I saw it come to life through the pages of the book. I could not stop crying, my heart was overwhelmed to see it there in front of me.
What a gift this book will be to those searching to find freedom from their Egypt, experience from their Wilderness and Purpose in their Promise Land. Once again, I have to say thank you to my dear friend Deanna for running her race well, for inviting others along into the journey and for never turning back.
I can't wait for the next leg of the race.
“Say cheese!” Those were the words that ran through my head as my family informed me of the very innocent but toxic mistake I made just a few nights ago as they sat down to eat the gourmet dinner I had prepared. From the top of the stairs my husbands voice could be heard through out the house, “your going to love this one” it was in the tone that told me someone did something and it was probably going to be story worthy and blogging kind of material.
I believe I responded with “what did he do now?” which I need to quit doing, my son informed me that I can’t always just blame him for things that mysteriously happen around the house, on the front porch, in the back yard, in the garage, through out the neighborhood, I just need to stop blaming my 12 year old like that, assuming that he is the one causing all the mischief.
Giggles from the top of the stairs floated through the air and straight into the kitchen, my ears were tickled with curiosity, “what could it be?” What was making my family laugh so hard and why were they being so secretive? They all three leaned over the banner of the staircase, peered into the kitchen, making eye contact with me causing me to grin right back at them.
A few moments of silence stood between us when finally, they spoke up, they were laughing and giggling with each other as they proceeded to tell me that I forgot to take off the plastic from the cheese I had used when I made my daughters’ grilled cheese sandwich. I could only imagine what was running through her mind as she tried to bite down into her warm toasty bread only finding it impossible to break through the cheese; I too could not help but grin, giggle and then breakout into laughter.
All of a sudden, things started to make sense as my thoughts went back to a few moments earlier while I was grilling my darling daughters’ sandwich. I had taken the spatula and pressed down on the top of the bread, I could see the cheese and remember thinking to myself, “I wonder why it isn’t oozing out?” but that was as far as my thoughts had gone.
As I snapped out of my thoughts and started too apologized to my daughter, she stopped me in mid-sentence with a “that’s OK mom, there was another piece of cheese on it” apparently that one was released from it’s wrapper before facing its fate. All was well again in the house but I did make a little note to self, grilled cheese sandwiches taste much better when the wrapper is removed.
A merry heart does good, like medicine.